Hakurei Turnips: First Garden Take of the Spring

Hakurei turnips just pulled from the garden (2-17-14)

Hakurei turnips just pulled from the garden (2-17-14)

Two or three warm days make it feel like spring is here.  The grass is noticeably greening up.  Even here in southeast Texas, where the temps normally come back up after a few cold days of cold, we’ve had a long winter of bundling-up.  I know our mostly in-the-50s days and down-in-the-30s nights are not that bad compared to those in some other parts of the country.  I spent a good many years lasting through cold Kansas winters, so I can appreciate not having to scrape windshields and scoop off driveways these days.

The below 30s and accompanying freezing rain and sleet we did have on a couple of occasions have interfered very little with the veggies that I planted at the end October out in the small garden behind the garage.  The perky leaves of the mix of greens and the glistening tops of the carrots and turnips seem to be almost showing off here in the middle of February.

The carrots and the traditional purple top turnips probably won’t make for some time, but this next weekend I intend to cut a batch of the greens for a wilted salad.  This evening, though, I couldn’t resist pulling up four of the Hakurei turnips.  Right now, some are about the size of a big radish.  They are sweet and crunchy with just a little bite, as I verified by munching them down once they were washed and the tops nipped off.

I get most of my seeds on line from Johnny’s Seeds.  I don’t mind giving them a plug because I’ve gotten the seeds very quickly and the packs are a lot fuller than those you get at the big box stores.

I’m eating a lot of store-bought veggies these days, but it’s sure fun to have a bit of the home-grown taste of these turnips.

“I Didn’t Just Fall Off the Turnip Truck . . .”

The evening's garden pickings--a batch of lettuce and several crunchy Hakurei turnips.

The evening’s garden pickings–a batch of lettuce and several crunchy Hakurei turnips.

I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck, but this is the first time that I’ve ever tried growing turnips.  Based on the Harris County Extension Planting Calendar, I planted turnips, lettuce, peas, and carrots in November, and of all of these, the turnips seem to be doing the best.

They came up thick, and I didn’t thin them, but I reckon I will be doing that as I pull up some to eat.  The tops are full and green, and cover the roots, which are basically trying to push themselves out of the ground.

I planted a hybrid turnip, called Hakurei, which I ordered online from Johnny’s Seeds.  Overall, I like this seed company and feel like I’m getting better quality and more seeds to the packet compared to what I get at the neighborhood big box stores.  Of course, with the shipping the cost is going to be more; however, Johnny’s Seeds has a fast turnaround on the order; I’ve usually gotten the seeds in my mailbox just a couple of days after I placed the order.

These Hakurei turnips are crunchy and have a mild flavor.  I also like a turnip that has a bit of a bite, so next fall, I think I’ll plant the traditional purple-top as well.

Last evening, I also picked some of the lettuce that I had planted at the same time as the turnips.  A lot of lettuce had gotten washed out with the rains in December and January, so what was left had gotten mature and stemy.  I decided to make wilted lettuce (recipe here) and try using some of the turnip tops too.  Even with the combination of flavorings of fried bacon, sugar, and vinegar, the greens were just too tough to make a good salad.

This morning I’ve been out in my little patch pulling up chickweed and caging tomato plants, some of which I grew from seed and some that came up volunteer from the compost I had tilled in last fall.  The best tomatoes I’ve ever grown are Purple Cherokees, so I ordered these and another called Green Cherokees from Johnny’s Seeds.  I’m just learning to get the plants started and then transferred into the garden.  We’ll see how well my little transplants do!

Though my three rows of turnips aren’t that long, I’ll have plenty for snacking and salads for quite a while this spring.  After they are done, in their place will go okra, which I haven’t had great luck with in the past couple of years.  But okra is really only happy in the hot summer sun, and I probably have been trying to plant them too early.